Many said it would never happen but cometh the hour, cometh the man. Jon Watson, cautiously, welcomes the return of Billy Davies to the City Ground…
So ‘King’ Billy is back after more than 18 months left out in the wilderness. Make no bones about it, Fawaz Al Hasawi has caved under fan pressure and turned to the prodigal son to try and win back some support and faith. Could he be the first manager ever appointed by Twitter?
A string of rash — and occasionally irrational — decisions have left a large number of people wondering if Venky’s aren’t the worst football club owners in the division, possibly the country. And for once in my life I am firmly on the fence with this decision. It could end in promotion or oblivion or anywhere in between.
Steve Cotterill was allegedly sacked during his drive home from a meeting with the Al Hasawis where he was told his job was safe. Sean O’Driscoll was sacked after a big Boxing Day win against Leeds — one journalist claims Mark Arthur refused to do Fawaz’s bidding and sack him on Christmas Day. Alex McLeish’s ill-fated reign lasted only 41 days and, as predicted by yours truly, was almost a carbon copy of the Steve McClaren tenure — call it ‘ginger intuition’ if you like. And in the meantime, Frank Clark, the much-maligned Arthur and long-term chief scout Keith Burt were all sacked by post. The pen certainly mightier than the sword in Kuwait it seems.
None of these decisions seem to be well thought-out or rational with no plans to replace anyone put in place. Fawaz’s advisor/confidant/friend Dr Tareq Aljalahmah seems to be busy arguing with fans on Twitter, or trying to learn UK geography, so it’s no surprise that Alex McLeish gave in and packed his bags; earning me a nice 60 quid profit from Stan James in the process. Needless to say Fawaz needs to win back some trust. He says he is still committed to the club despite it being a bigger task than envisaged, I can’t be the only person who has wondered if he should actually be committed.
So what does Billy Davies bring? Some see him as the messiah, “the best since Clough”; others as the anti-Christ, Damien with a Glaswegian accent. He is neither. Frank Clark is still the most successful manager since Cloughie and I’d argue Dave Bassett after that, but that’s by the by. Billy Davies is a good manager; he generally takes Championship teams and moves them up to the right end of the table and the play-offs.
But his strength and weakness is the same thing. He never ever backs down. This is brilliant on the field, although I imagine Lewis McGugan is already quaking in his boots, because it brings the siege mentality back. The unbeaten home run under Billy was nothing short of spectacular. He also played some great attacking football at times when he was last here. Great wins over Leicester, West Brom and Derby all spring to mind. It’s no real surprise that he is still held in such high regard by a large number of supporters. However, this never say die attitude has its dark side.
Billy Davies is no fool, he knows how to get fans and press on his side to try and manipulate a situation. Some people lap it up, others are a little discerning. But Billy’s refusal to back down ultimately cost him his job here last time. He pushed the late Nigel Doughty too far with his antics in the press, and made the news about Billy not about Nottingham Forest. He took players like George Boyd on loan but refused to play them as he hadn’t got his own targets. This never bodes well at a football club.
Owners and managers need trust and understanding. Fawaz needs reigning in and advising, my concern is Billy Davies is very persuasive and may dominate Fawaz. On the flipside Fawaz likes to have a say in team affairs and I can’t see wee Billy standing for that. Fawaz needs to back and support Billy but also keep him at arm’s length so he, and more importantly the football club, don’t get mauled by the little Rottweiler.
John Pemberton was pushed out by Billy once and, after his return to the club, he must be concerned of déjà vu. The youth and reserve system has been overhauled into a development squad and I hope Billy embraces this for the future rather than trying to disband it again. Fawaz needs to be perfectly clear with Billy that we need the Academy for the future, for the new financial regulations and for a legacy. We cannot simply spend indefinitely to gain promotion and I think Fawaz has already learned this lesson.
I don’t love Billy, I don’t hate him; but I do respect him. I think he will move us up the table in the short- and long-term. I’d argue he has a better squad than he had previously, although we still need a quality left back. Some things never change!
I wish him all the best and hope it lasts longer than the past four appointments combined. I hope the fans that are wary of him can support him, in the ground at least, and keep my fingers crossed that his off-field antics aren’t making headlines and his on-field ones are. Maybe his “unfinished business” will spur him on to greater things this time. Either way, he can’t really do any more damage to our reputation that Fawaz is managing on his own.
The king is dead… long live ‘King Billy’. One thing I can guarantee is that when he walks onto the pitch on the 16th of February and the announcer cries out his name, the roof will come off the City Ground. And my God do we miss that feel-good factor.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @Forest_Grump
Image: courtesy of brokenarts/www.sxc.hu